By Debra Moore
Quincy residents celebrated Memorial Day during a moving ceremony this morning, May 30, at Dame Shirley Plaza. The crowd was sparser than in years past, but those who attended were treated to some passionate and thought-provoking remarks.
This was the 17th annual event and once again organizer Robert Zernich served as master of ceremonies. This year’s ceremony was dedicated to those who died at Pearl Harbor and several speakers, including Zernich, highlighted the sacrifice made there.
Pastor George Tarleton gave an emotional invocation, and returned to deliver the closing convocation. Quincy VFW Post 3825 raised the flag. Quincy resident Judy Baalman led attendees in singing the National Anthem, God Bless America and America the Beautiful. There was even a recorded version of Taps narrated by John Wayne. As is customary, Ron Trumbo of KNLF Radio, ably handled the sound.
Lassen County Superior Court Judge Mark Nareau traveled to Quincy to deliver the keynote address, and he held the crowd’s attention as he discussed the oath that is taken by military members to uphold the Constitution, and then proceeded to discuss its origins, the first 10 amendments, subsequent amendments, and why he is so proud of this country. Nareau devoted the bulk of his remarks on the amendments to the First Amendment and its guarantees of freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and the right to petition the government with grievances.
Following his remarks on the amendments, Nareau said “I couldn’t be more proud of this country … even with its flaws and imperfections.” As proof he offered up the phrase “the American Dream” and noted that there is no “Swiss Dream” or “British Dream” or “Russian Dream.” He said, “Point out one other country were there are hundreds of thousands of people trying to come in…” He cited the example of a Guatemalan single mom walking 2,000 miles with a baby on her hip to get into the United States. He said he knew of no other country were a woman would risk her life and that of her child to get in.
Plumas County Supervisors Greg Hagwood and Jeff Engel, followed. Hagwood told those gathered that it was a day of mourning, contemplation and remembrance. He then proceeded to share the story of his uncle, his mother’s little brother, who was killed in Vietnam just days before being scheduled to return home. He said she was in attendance, holding the final written letter by her brother, with the final line being “Keep praying just in case…”
Engel also focused on the occasion being a solemn one and not about barbecuing or drinking beer. He encouraged attendees to visit the local cemeteries and “look at the graves of the fallen souls who can’t come home today.” (The VFW posts the large flags at the Quincy cemeteries, while the local Girl Scout troop placed the small flags on each of the graves this year.)
Congressman Doug LaMalfa commended the speakers before him and then discussed some of his grave concerns that he has for the country. “The United States is made up of people and people are flawed,” he said, but then continued, “the resilience of the American people always sees us through. Can we do it again?” And since this year’s ceremony was dedicated to Pearl Harbor, LaMalfa shared an emotional visit that he made to Pearl Harbor the day following his swearing-in ceremony for his first term in the state assembly.
Representing the county’s Veterans Service Office, Bill Cook and Scott Quaid, addressed the crowd. Cook said to remember six words on this day: honor, recognition, service, sacrifice, defend and protect. He also discussed the loss of local veterans to suicide. Nationwide, 22 veterans die by suicide every 24 hours.
Quaid mentioned that the fifth annual Veterans Stand Down will be held Aug. 26-27 with a host of free services offered to veterans.